For our first newsletter of 2016, Artenova is pleased to publish the interview with Jim Manolios owner of Trofeo Estate. In the cellar of the vineyards of Manolios in Dromana, Australia, there are 90 terracotta amphorae from the workshop of Artenova, Impruneta, Tuscany.
Mr. Manolios, as the largest producer of wine in amphorae of the southern hemisphere, how did your interest for winemaking in terracotta come about?
Currently 60% of our production of wine is in terracotta but it will soon become 100%. The first time I became interested in terracotta was through my viticulture course at the University of Melbourne. I did a research to see if anyone was still using terracotta vessels to make wine, why and where they were getting the terracotta amphorae from. This led me to Artenova for 2 reasons: firstly the area of Impruneta has a long history going back thousands of years for its terracotta vessels. The clay used in the production of Impruneta terracotta seems to be unique in its ability to "breathe". This is vital in fermenting and maturing wine. Secondly Artenova were not only capable of producing amphorae of the capacity of 800 litres, but could integrate modern stainless steel fittings for making wine in commercial quantities.
Since then Artenova has supported us with technical assistance and provided “Terracotta and Wine” conferences (the latest one was “Terracotta and Wine 2014”) at which we could meet other Terracotta wine makers and showcase our wines.
Is it true that the terracotta of Impruneta can also be used as a tool to adjust the humidity of the wine?
One of the unique properties of these wine jars is that they "breathe". The clay acts as a membrane containing calcium ions carrying water from the inside of the jars to the outside or vice versa (the amphora sweats). The humidity and temperature of the surrounding environment may cause a significant vacuum resulting from evaporation, but unlike wooden barrels, with terracotta it is just water that is lost.
The winemaker can use the properties of the terracotta to concentrate the wine during aging. We discovered a peculiarity belonging only to the terracotta of Impruneta: by maintaining the temperature at about 17 degrees Celsius with 17% humidity, the wine contained in the jars is concentrated at a rate of 5% per month in a jar of 800 litres. Since this can be calculated, it becomes an important tool for the winemaker to enhance the subtle characteristics of the wine.
We use this technique for the production of both whites and reds with excellent results. It should be noted that the clay from Impruneta has its own unique properties just as the terroir of the vineyards, some clays are hydrophobic, some are hydrophilic. This unique composition (of Impruneta clay) imparts these properties to the Amphorae.
Artenova is becoming a popular name in many countries of the world. Does the appellation "Made in Tuscany" affect the perception of the brand “Artenova” in Australia?
Trofeo Estate is slowly becoming more well known for its Terracotta Wines and Terracotta Artenova is part of that story. At Trofeo Estate our customers certainly find it of great interest that our wines are made in Terracotta, the fact Artenova are made in Tuscany we would argue is also a part of our wines appeal and sparks our customers curiosity”.